The Fly on the Rucksack's Tale

Tales from End to End
The Fly on the Rucksack’s Tale

(as overheard whilst being carried on David Maughan’s ‘North of England Way’, April 2010)

Fly on the Rucksack
Fly on the Rucksack

‘It’s hard to think that in a year’s time you’ll be retired, Love, and we’ll have all the time in the world together. What do you fancy doing to celebrate?’

‘I want to walk Land’s End to John o’Groats.’

‘What! That’s an ‘eck of a long way for a couple of old pensioners. Do you realise what it will involve? It’s not just a gentle stroll, you know and; if I can say it kindly; you’re not the spring chicken I fell for 40 years ago! (and, come to think of it, I don’t suppose I’m the macho hunk you drooled over either.)’

‘Well, if you want to wimp out you could always stay home and watch the telly.’

‘Listen; for a start, some of it is pretty rugged country. What if we have an accident like a twisted ankle or take a wrong turn out on the hills just when it’s getting dark and starting to rain? Can you imagine the papers: ‘Two old codgers lost on the hills’ – it doesn’t bear thinking about.

‘But you don’t have to take the high level route. Andrew McCloy’s book suggests three possible routes and we could avoid the Pennine Way entirely if you felt frightened. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for some time and, as I said, you don’t have to come or perhaps you’d just like to choose the easier sections. Tell you what; I could do the walk and you could drive the support car, meet me every few miles, give me a hot drink and encouragement, then pick me up at the end and prepare the evening meal. You might want to take a book to read so you didn’t get bored. That’d work, don’t you think?’

‘But then there’s Scotland! Have you thought about that? All those midges, mosquitoes and clegs – with your allergies, you’d get eaten alive! And what about the food? Oats for breakfast, gruel for lunch and then haggis for supper – you’d never survive! And the rain – it never stops! Talk about raining cats and dogs, it’s tigers and wolves up there! I can think of another problem. What about our six grandkids, scattered over the rest of the country? They’re probably hoping that they’ll be able to see much more of us once you retire; they’ll not expect us to be swanning off all over the place on a five month long holiday jaunt!’

‘Actually, what I had in mind was that we could plan our route so that we visited them all in the course of the walk, stayed with them for a few days and had some high quality time seeing them.’

‘Then what about the morality? You know I’ll feel guilty about the whole thing. How can we justify a five-month long, expensive, self-indulgent jolly when there’s so much hardship in the world; so much suffering; so many people feeling the pinch in these times of financial hardship?’

‘It’s just possible we might get one or two people to sponsor us for Christian Aid. Would that salve your conscience? I’d say I was doing it all for fun and you could pretend to be earnest and say you were doing it all as a philanthropic gesture. And I’ll tell you something else. We could set up a blog on the website so that people could see what we were up to and could donate through the Just Giving Scheme.’

‘Possibly …’

‘But there’s one thing I am adamant about. This has got to be a once-in-a-lifetime romantic stroll – just you and me. No pressure; no hassle; and certainly – certainly there is no question whatsoever of the stress of writing another book! Scores of other people have already written about Land’s End to John o’Groats. It would require an enormous amount of effort doing all the mapping, taking all the notes, doing all the research, snapping all the photos. I know you: you’d be so tired at the end of the day and you’d be lying awake all night wondering whether you’ve got the story right that it would it would all become a great burden instead of the holiday of a lifetime. So definitely – NO BOOK – not on this occasion.’

‘Mmmm … Nance, you know, I’m beginning to warm to the idea. Perhaps ‘Land’s End to John o’Groats’ isn’t such a bad suggestion after all … When would you like to start?’

‘How about All Fools’ Day, 1st April 2011?’